Azim Ahmed makes a mean kebab.
He’s been honing his recipe since he was a kid in Bangladesh, where he’d shadow his father in their kitchen and meticulously roll ground mince into neat, flat patties for the family to share.
Nowadays, it’s the regulars at Wandana Community Centre who taste the spoils of Azim’s cooking.
The 21-year-old is a volunteer kitchen hand at the Centre, where food is a uniting force every Wednesday.
For nearly 25 years, Wandana’s three-course `Lovely Lunch’ has been fusing friendship and fare.
When COVID-19 restrictions are not in place, up to 30 regulars gather each week to break bread, talk and reflect, while Azim – led by a chef – goes to work plating up staples of halal meat, soup, vegetables and sweets.
The role has given him a sense of purpose and a bunch of new friends, while providing him with vital experience in a commercial kitchen.
“I did a Kitchen Operations Certificate II at TAFE which qualified me as a kitchen hand, so I thought while I look for work, I’ll volunteer,’’ he says.
“I’m able to hone my skills and do something that I enjoy while helping people as well.’’
In addition to prepping ingredients and dishes, Azim sets tables, cleans the kitchen and packs up.
“I really enjoy the customer interaction; everyone is always happy and they acknowledge me for my efforts’’
Azim is among 30 volunteers at Wandana who regularly give their time to help deliver a range of programs, from beginners’ English classes to crèche, computing, gardening, dance, fitness and meditation.
“Cooking to me is a relaxing process. I like to experiment and take my time’’ Azim says.
“The best food requires time and patience.
“Relax, don’t rush, and follow the recipe, and you’ll make great food. But also, don’t be afraid to experiment and put your own twist on things.’’
To young people pondering volunteering, Azim says: “Make the effort because it’s a great way to learn new skills and do something good for the community.’’
*We are currently celebrating National Volunteer Week with the theme `Changing Communities. Changing Lives.’ For more information, please visit Volunteering Australia.